TOEFL iBT Pronunciation: Where Does the Stress Fall on Multi-Syllabic Words?

A non-native speaker approaches you and says, “HELlo, how are you doING? Which UNiversity are you ATtending?” Each of the capitalized words in the speaker’s question indicates places of primary stress, so you can guess that this speaker is placing primary stress in all the wrong places, resulting in strange, distracting, and barely intelligible speech.

An accumulation of irregular word stress shifts on TOEFL iBT speaking will send your score spiraling downward; thus, you should use clear non-distracting word stress. And by not making the stressed syllable longer, louder, higher pitched, and clearer will affect your intonation, a problem which will continue to affect your TOEFL iBT speaking score adversely.

Why is word stress difficult for non-native speakers of English? Part of the difficulty lies in differences in word stress patterns among languages, with many speakers unaccustomed to the new word stress patterns of English. Additionally, English has many two, three, four, five, six, and even seven syllable words, all of which have primary stressed syllables. So, word stress can be overwhelming for some English learners.

To solve this problem, you will need constant exposure to conversational English over an extended period of time. Furthermore, you will need to learn a few patterns that can help you predict the word stress of common and uncommon English words. For example, always stress the suffix “-self” in words such as “mySELF.” Learning that and a few other rules will help you come to grips with some of the most common word stress patterns of English.

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